A key priority of the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force is advancing legislation to help combat the problem of prescription drug misuse and diversion at all levels of government.
The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force that the Attorney General co-chairs has for two years studied the rampant health problem of Hoosiers becoming addicted to opioid drugs such as prescription pain medications. The task force recommended bills the Legislature passed:
Senate Enrolled Act 227: Lifeline Law, drug emergencies and assault study
Originally passed in 2012 at the urging of college students, the Lifeline Law encourages young people to call 911 if someone suffers alcohol poisoning and makes the caller immune from criminal charges related to underage drinking. Attorney General Zoeller has promoted awareness of the Lifeline Law at campuses with the Lifeline Law's author, State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. This year, Sen. Merritt authored Senate Enrolled Act 227, an update to the Lifeline Law that expands it to extend immunity from prosecution if underage callers seek help for other types of medical emergencies such as concussions or if they are a victim of a sexual assault, or witness and report a crime. Zoeller recommended an amendment to SEA 227 that encourages first responders – including law enforcement and firefighters – to be equipped with Naloxone, a medication that counteracts the effects of an opioid drug overdose. It will remove legal barriers to first responders utilizing the antidote to save patients’ lives. SEA 227 also authorizes a legislative study committee to study the topic of human trafficking facilitated on the Internet.
House Enrolled Act 1218: INSPECT
Intended to deter prescription drug abuse that might be facilitated by overprescribing by providers, the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking Program, or INSPECT, is a database the state has operated for several years that tracks the dispensing of certain addictive controlled substances. So that the database is kept updated in a timely manner, the task force recommended House Enrolled Act 1218, which requires pharmacists to provide dispensing information to INSPECT on certain opioid drugs – within three days, starting July 1, 2015, and within 24 hours, starting January 1, 2016. HEA 1218 includes patient privacy protections for confidentiality.
House Enrolled Act 1360: Workforce Shortage
Mindful of patients already addicted, another of the task force’s recommendations was to address Indiana’s shortage of mental health professionals and addiction treatment professionals. To encourage more of these professionals to practice in Indiana, House Enrolled Act 1360 offers up to five years of student loan forgiveness grants to psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, addiction counselors and mental health professionals who are pursuing addiction training in behavioral health and addiction psychiatry -- provided they practice their specialty within the state.
Senate Enrolled Act 408: Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
The task force also reviewed the problem of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS, where newborns exposed to prescription or illicit drugs while in the womb suffer from withdrawal symptoms including respiratory complications, low birth weight, feeding difficulties and seizures. Senate Enrolled Act 408 establishes a standard clinical definition of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and directs the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) to meet with various medical and pediatric stakeholders, to develop recommendations regarding diagnosis and screening and reporting of statistics of NAS that will be presented to the Legislative Council no later than November 1, 2014. SEA 408 allows ISDH before June 1, 2015, to establish pilot programs with hospitals to put the NAS recommendations into practice.
State Senator Ron Grooms, R- Jeffersonville, and State Representative Steve Davisson, R- Salem, members of the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, helped author and sponsor key legislation that will help in the fight against prescription drug abuse.
Senate Enrolled Act 246 makes important changes regarding clinics that prescribe, dispense or administer controlled substances. It requires clinic owners to hold an Indiana Controlled Substance Registration (CSR). Clinic owners have a responsibility for overseeing the operations in the clinic and ensuring that practitioners prescribe in a way that complies with the law. The law also allows the Attorney General’s office to move more quickly in taking enforcement action against practitioners who overprescribe and obtain records for an investigation.
House Enrolled Act 1465 improves the effectiveness of the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collecting & Tracking program (INSPECT), the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. INSPECT maintains a database of controlled substances dispensed by pharmacies, and physician can access the program to verify they are not overprescribing to an addicted patient who might be drug-seeking.
"I am very proud of these two pieces of legislation. They will each assist in thwarting the prescription drug abuse problems facing Indiana and will hopefully prevent prescription pain misuses before they start.”
-State Representative Steve Davisson, R- Salem
“I want to thank Attorney General Zoeller and my colleagues in the legislature for their help and support in passing this important initiative to prevent prescription drug abuse in our state.”
-State Senator Ron Grooms, R- Jeffersonville
Committees will continue to assess educational opportunities and policies to reduce the devastating impact prescription drug abuse has on Hoosier families and communities.